Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Updating the update

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Since my last post updating Anna’s progress, there have been some significant and positive changes.

First, Anna’s doctor has made a change in her schedule. He examined her on Saturday after Anna had finished her scheduled chemo treatment. This was suppose to be the last chemo treatment before Anna had surgery, but Anna said that during the examination her doctor became excited (sic!).  These are Anna’s words. Personally I can’t imagine her very staid, and even-keeled doctor getting excited, but anyhow… During the examination of her left breast and lymph nodes, he noticed a significant reduction in the size of the cancerous masses.

Anna said he was excited because this change had occurred in the course of the last two week cycle. Up until this examination, Anna had only described his opinion of her progress as being cautiously optimistic.  As we have both read on the internet, chemo doesn’t work for everyone the same way, so there is a bit of craftsmanship to the science involved in the administration of the chemo regimens that doctors prescribe to their patients. But now that Anna’s body seems to be responding very well to the current regiment, the doctor thinks it would be best to extend the current cycle for three more sessions to see if there is further reduction in the masses and more importantly annihilation of any metastasized cells in her body. This will push Anna’s surgery into February rather than the end of December.

Anna also had a chance to talk with her radiologist. It seems that Anna and the radiologist share a connection; that is,  Anna’s mother and the radiologist’s mother were school friends back when they were growing up in Incheon. These kinds of connections are very important in Korean society, and consequently the radiologist took a more detailed and careful look at Anna’s case and gave Anna a call on Tuesday. The radiologist described Anna’s breast cancer as resembling a bunch of grapes, with the largest number of masses in the breast itself and fewer clusters spreading through the lymph nodes from the breast to just under the  left underarm. Neither Anna nor I were aware that her cancer was grape-like, I think both of us envisioned it as one large tumor in the breast and smaller secondary tumor near the underarm.

In other news, the end of the school year is quickly approaching and that means Anna is busy filling out application forms for next semester. These applications are for  Noah so he can enter the lotteries that many of the best  kindergartens in our area use to select incoming students.  Since we have three children and are labeled a “multicultural family” we often have better odds at securing these coveted spots than your average Korean family with a single child.

Anna spent the morning filling out the applications and now it is time to run around to several schools, drop off our applications, the associated paperwork, and the obligatory “here’s my foreigner” that is required when one claims to be a multicultural family.

Korean spouse: “Here’s my foreigner.”
Foreign spouse squeaks, “Hi.”
School official looks foreign spouse over critically to be sure that he/she is really non-Korean.

Really, it’s gonna be the best part of the whole afternoon.

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Chapter 95: The Cassock or “Moby’s Dick”

Today I decided to go through a bunch of half written post. Mostly I ended up trashing them because they were time bound thoughts, but here’s one that kind of stands on its own timeless merits. After all, who hasn’t gotten kicked out of Mrs. Lunt’s English class for deeply probing the meaning of a novel! I know I got kicked out of her classes at least twice. Once for asking if Arthur Dimmesdale was masturbating in a closet and again for this lovely quote from Moby Dick:

“…and had you strolled forward nigh the windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers…that unaccountable cone,—longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at the base, and jet-black…”

My question to Mrs. Lunt: ” Did the Mincer put the whale’s penis on like a condom before he began chopping up the blubber?”

I can’t exactly remember her answer, but I know I somehow ended up in the principal’s office.

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

End of November Update

Friday, Novenber 30th

Anna is in the hospital for her last Chemo treatment before her surgery. She has now completed two cycles of Chemo. She was supposed to go in yesterday for her treatment, but she wasn’t feeling well, so she gave herself an extra day. She will be released from the hospital either Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

After her release she will have two weeks to recover and then she will do another round of tests to ascertain the effectiveness of current treatments. The following week (December 17-21), is the week her doctor believes he will schedule her for surgery. I’m hoping her surgery happens closer to the 17th rather than the 21st, so that we will be able to have Christmas with her in her hospital room.

In other news, Noah completed her first week at a new Taekwondo school. He seems to be enjoying it. He tried to do Taekwondo this summer, but he just wasn’t ready. Oh, he wanted to do it, but he just couldn’t sit, wait and listen long enough to be able to learn what the sabunim (master) was teaching. He’s doing better now. He’s better able to control his impulses and to listen and follow along.

Noah uses the “school dollars” to buy items at the school store. 17 November, 2012

On Saturday the 17th of November, Noah had an open-house at his daycare. The open-house was organized around  five different situations: school store, school restaurant, performance, robotics workshop, and sports competition. During the performance, Noah and his classmates performed an English song about brushing their teeth.  The costums they had the kids wear are clownishly funny. Sadly, Anna missed this performance because she was again in the hospital receiving Chemo, but BoA and I both shot video.

Here’s the video I took of his performance. (Quality warning – this is a video taken on a smart phone, so don’t be expecting Disney like sound and special affects. However, google/youtube were very kind. They informed me that they had detected some unsteadiness in my video and they could run an anti-shaking logarithm on the video I uploaded. I agreed, so it shouldn’t be too bad, or so we hope.)

BoA has a video of me doing a tug-of-war against some of the other parents. It’s me and two other mothers against a father and these two other mothers. We smoke them, and it kind of funny how serious the women that I’m teamed up with are. They insist that I take off my socks so that I’d have better traction on the linoleum floor. Unfortunately I can’t seem to get the video off BoA’s phone, I keep getting some error message saying that the device is not connected to my computer. I will try to find a micro SD card and save the video to the  card, then transfer it to my computer so I can upload it to youtube.

Grr. I suspect, Andy took all the spare micro SD cards for his Nintendo DS. Don’t worry. I’ll figure something out; just check back for an update.

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Off to Thai TESOL

I leave tomorrow for Thailand, and I’m feeling pretty good.

My PowerPoint Presentation is finished, but I may polish a slide or two before the actual song-and-dance. My handouts are photocopied and packed. I still need to get my poster markers for the workshop part of my presentation, but I texted Anna and she said she would pick them up as she swings by E-Mart. I will find the poster paper I need in Thailand. I need at least one adventure before the conference to make it seem real. 

The paper itself is not complete, but I have basically done this workshop a hundred times with my teachers-in-training, so all I really don’t need a written paper to run the session. All I will need are some notes for the theoretical introduction and some more notes for the processing of the workshop. The workshop is where I apply the theory I explain in the introduction and the processing demonstrates how the theory was applied and implemented. I will then have the participants assess the effectiveness of the workshop and the goal that the workshop aimed to achieve themselves.

Here’s the invitation to the Thai TESOL reception (see below). Rumor has it that’s it’s going to be pretty swank, since they are celebrating the 30th year of the conference.

The conference is being held at the Twin Tower Hotel in Bangkok. Here is a link to an online site that has compiled reviews of the hotel and here is another link to an actual review. I will also be staying there. It looks to be an average place, so long as I  keep my expectation low I should be pretty happy. That shouldn’t be too hard, because I will be happy if it is equal to your typical Korean Love Motel. The hotel already has one thing going for it and thatis a pool; most Korean Love Motels don’t have an outdoor swimming pool (see below). So that is certainly a plus.

If my room has wifi, I will try to keep the blog updated. If the room lacks wifi, then you may have to wait intil February to hear me tell of my adventures in Bangkok.

Monday, January 25th, 2010

One Decisions I’m Glad I Didn’t Make

A couple of weeks ago Michael R. through facebook posted a link to the Chronicle of Higher Education called “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go.”  After reading it was kind of thankful that I didn’t go.

Back in 2003 was I seriously considering returning to the US and getting my PhD. I had bought a GRE preparation book and I was religiously studying the math section for an hour to 90 minutes each day. I wasn’t worried about the verbal section. I had taken an online diagnostic test, I was perfect on the verbal section but so bad on the math that they had to create a new category for me called ignoramus. 

I was a bit surprised by that because I had taken the GRE back in 1992 in order to get into the University of Texas.  At that time I had held my own in the math section. Of course, if you don’t use it you lose it and I certainly hadn’t done any serious math since the math I had done to pass the GRE in 1992.

Of course, one thing about the whole GRE that still kind of irks me is that the 1993 test was no longer considered valid when I considered returning to graduate school in 2003. I’m not entirely sure why. One would think that over time one gets more knowledgeable, wiser and better able to handle the rigors of higher education; especially if one has already jumped through that particular hoop once. Obviously the powers-that-be don’t see it that way. The one thing I have learned from my years in Asia is that people who wield power love to make other people jump through their hoops.

Undaunted by the needless and irrational hoop jumping, I researched specific graduate school programs, and I even went so far as to contact Paul Matsuda directly at the University of New Hampshire to inquire about what my chances would be for getting funding. After an exchange of five or six emails, he said he thought my chances would be pretty good since I had experience in teaching in both ESL and EFL setting as well as experience within the specialization I was intending on concentrating on, that is, Second Language Writing for science and engineering.

Obviously being able to get my PhD at the University of New Hampshire would have been ideal in many ways. I grew up in the area so it was close to my family and very familiar to me. In addition I had spent a year and a half doing substitute teaching in many of the local school districts so I had knowledge of the local schools and probably contacts at many of them as well which would be helpful as the kids reached school age. I even looked into what it would take for me to update my teaching credentials as a possible fall back plan should the whole PhD thing founder for some unknown reason.

I was serious committed to the idea, but the major draw back and probably the main reasons why I decided not to do it was the cost of housing in the area. Although I was fairly confident that I would get some kind of funding to do my PhD, it would not be enough to support a family of four at that time in that place especially in a housing market which was on fire. Queue up Don Ho: “Ah those tiny bubbles…”  After racking up a significant amount of debt the first time I did graduate school, I could not justify doing it again.

Another contributing factor, but not the main factor, was the fact that America had really changed since I had left in 1997, and in many ways it had not changed for the better.  I just couldn’t see going back, raising children and working in such a negative atmosphere. Although living on the other side of the world sheltered me from the worst of it, I still couldn’t completely avoid it. We live in a globalized, information saturated and media obsessed world, so unless you crawl under a rock somewhere in Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard or dig your self a hole at 34.7°N 85.7°E on the Tibetan plateau (link / archive) the chances are pretty good that you cannot escape the influence of the rest of the world. 

Although I would like to blame 9-11 for this change, I know that it’s not the cause. It was merely an intensifier. I don’t think there was a single cause. In fact many American are probably unaware of the changes at all, because they have happened slowly over a long period of time. Even though there is no single cause, there are however lots of identifiable contributing factors. Some factors, like the establishment of the military industrial complex, go back as far as World War Two. Some other obvious contributing factors were Vietnam, Watergate, and disgrace of the Nixon administration. Thus, many of the factors that are influencing the economic, political, social and cultural aspects of American society today go back to the second half of the 20th Century.

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Oxford University Press Interview & Presentation

Yesterday I had my Oxford University Press interview and presentation. As I wrote on facebook: It started off wrong, but ended well.

The country manager began the interview by reading from my cover letter, which in my experience is never a good sign. She began by saying, “In your cover letter you wrote: ‘My current position offers me a considerable amount of freedom and a network of contacts which your company may find advantageous.’ I gather that you have no intention of leaving your current position.” I agreed. That was my intention. She then informed me that she was looking to fill a full time position.

From my perspective, you can’t begin an interview from a more “wrong” position. I was looking for one thing and they were looking for another.   When I was informed of this I, of course, apologized for misreading of their advertisement. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who had misread it, because the country manager informed me that I was the third person to apply who had made the same interpretation of the ad. With her admission, I was feeling a little bit better.

From the cover letter she proceeded to my CV. “I see that you have been her a long time, since 1997.” Her next question was in Korean: (Do you know Korean?) I answered in Korean, (Yes, a little.)  She then switched back to English. “I see that you have written some articles about education in Korea, do you remember the essay, ‘A Rose by Any Other Name?’” I said that I did, but that I had written it a long time ago, so I only remember the general thesis. She then went on to summarize what the article was about, that is, an essay that examines the use of English names by English language instructors, and how that may be both appropriate and inappropriate for certain children. I was a bit surprised. I hadn’t actually thought anyone had read the essay much less be able to remember it after almost ten years. She then went on to mention how she had read this article a few days after her son had come back from a hagwon in tears because the Native speaker teacher said that his name was John. The Native Speaker instructor would not let him use his real name in class, because it was too hard to pronounce. When I was an instructor in a hagwon, I remember teachers who had made similar edicts in their classes. I was more flexible, I did my best to use the name my students wanted to be called. In the interview I made the comment that I thought that was a very ethno-centric thing to say and do and it was obvious from her son’s reaction that for him taking on an English name and identity was inappropriate. She said that she used my essay to change the policy at the hagwon regarding the use of English names.

After this, I was feeling much better about the interview and she proceeded to ask me question about the biggest differences between Korean public schools and American public schools to which I replied IEPs (individual evaluation plans). Korean school don’t have them. They give the same test to all 600 students in any given grade. She asked me what I thought the biggest trend in private English education was to which I replied CBI (content based instruction) and we spent about 1o minutes discussing that. I surmised from what she had to say that CBI had put a dent into Oxford textbook sales, and she was mining me for ideas to either co-opt the trend to her own needs or to find arguments against the trend.

She then asked me if I had prepared anything to present, and I told her that I had. She then asked me if it would be all right for her to invite her staff into the conference room. I said that would be great since I need them to be student’s for me. I then did my sample lesson for third and fourth grade elementary students. I had the office workers singing, doing TPR, playing matching games to internalize the new vocabulary, using paper cups and flashcards to practice the positiveand negative expressions, and the lesson finished with an authentic language task, a classroom survey. I then processed the sample lesson in terms of the active learning cycle and answered questions by the staff regarding how the active learning cycle fits into the PPP framework exposed in the the teacher books. I answered that question by saying the PPP framework looks at the lesson in terms of what the teacher needs to have the students doing, therefore, it’s from the teacher’s perspective; whereas, the active learning cycle is from the learner’s perspective, that is, it’s what the learners are doing as they move through the lesson.

The interview/presentation ended with me and the country manager talking. She asked me how I felt about being video taped to which I answered I don’t mind. She asked me if I would be willing to teach a sample lesson like this in front of real students while other teachers watched, to which I answered I prefer teaching lessons to real students and having people observe me is something I am very comfortable with. She then asked me if I would be willing to give the same presentation on February 4th for the New York representatives who will in Korea to which I answered I wouldn’t mind. She then ended the interview/presentation with: “I’ll have to have a contract drawn up and we will need to be clear about your roles and obligations. For example, if you are working for us we would restrict you from working with other publishers.” This made me a little nervous, so I asked would that mean I could no longer write for E*Public? She then clarified her position. I would be able to act a s a writer for whomever I wanted, but I would not be allowed to work for any other publishing companies in any other capacity. Upon here clarification, I said that I could abide by that restriction.

Although the interview started off on the wrong foot, I feel that playing to my strengths was the appropriate call, I was able to demonstrate that I had a skill that they could use even if that skill wasn’t availbale to them full-time. Perhaps, I impressed them enough that they want to put me under contract just so that Cambridge, Macmillian and Pearson’s can’t have me. That is after all what the no work clause would be all about. Hmm, maybe once we actually begin the negotiating process I will have to test the waters a bit to see to what extent this may be true.

[The Korean language plugin is still not working with my blog. I’ve uninstalled it, re-installed it, but I just can’t seem to get it to work. Any technophiles out there who might have a suggestion, please feel free to leave a comment.]

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Serial Plagiarists

Every semester there is always a student who reaches a certain level of infamy among his or her professors.

One semester it was Capt. Moon who had his wife do all his work. Since she had not actually experienced any of the sample lessons it was impossible for her to reflect on them. Consequently she would cut and paste random comments about teaching and teaching practice, hand them to her husband and he would pass that in as his thoughts about what he had experienced. He also managed to have his wife plagiarize all his reflections on culture for Glenda.  

This semester its Marilyn O (BTW “O” stands for OHMYFUCKINGOD!) She’s a serial plagiarist as well, but she is perhaps even worse than Capt. Moon. He, or his, wife at least did the readings for Materials Development; because he/she actually read the text since the answers were taken straight out of the coursebook. Marilyn, on the other hand, didn’t even bother to copy the answers out of the coursebook. She would plug the whole guided reading question into Google and cut and paste what ever she found. Sadly she didn’t even bother to read or skim what she had found because sometimes (most of the time) the results wouldn’t match the spirit of the reading.

However, she did learn from this, because in culture with Glenda instead of plagiarism she used Babblefish, an online translation program, to translate a reflection on stereotypes. Here’s a few samples from her work:

With the devastation which poorly of the metropolises follows prejudiced because like this from bankruptcy the black themselves short median life expectancy, the social pathology which reaches to the human unhappiness of high crimes and drug abuses and all types occurred.

Now does not write the word which is an unwed mothers from the world wide various countries and not to be the word which is single wool adopts. The unwed mothers alone are competent fostering and fostering boiling of the usual child, many Koreans it naturally, accepts.

Decimal racial group happen about prejudice the research of most the loach was advanced a focus.

Glenda’s in-paper comments for the above were: “I have NOidea what you are trying to say here.” Glenda wondered if this was too harsh. Both Dave Boesch and I, after reading the passages, assured her that it wasn’t. If fact I think “What the fuck?” would also be appropriate.

Some background information on Marilyn O: She is an art curator who is in the TESOL certificate to improve her English. She is very busy because she works, is married with children and supposedly has recently become pregnant again. Her husband who cannot speak English helps her with the ideas.

If she is trying to improve her English, I am not sure if a TESOL Certificate Program designed to teach teachers how to teach English is the right place for her. The program assumes a high level of English has already be attained. We interview all prospective students to ascertain their English proficiency, so I’m not sure how she slipped through the interview process, but she did. Interestingly, I’m not sure how she thinks she will improve her English if she doesn’t do the work.

Capt. Moon and Marilyn O are fairly common. I have been teaching in Korea for over ten years and there are several students each and every semester who beleive that they can get away with plagiarism. It doesn’t matter if you tell them ahead of time, which I have done every semester since 2000. My first few years in Korea I assumed that submitting one’s own work was the norm and that Korean had better ethics than to pass off someone else’s writing as their own. I guess I was a bit naive, but I have learned.

I can remember one paper that was submitted to me by a student at KAIST. He didn’t even bother to synchronize the fonts and font sizes. It looked like a kind of crazy quilt except it was supposed to be an original essay. When you confront the students about their plagiarism, many don’t even realize that it is wrong. When I ask the questions: Would you do this in a Korean class? They usual answer, “Yes, all the time.”Consequently, I want to blame the education system which focus on rote memory and knowledge retention. Since the system down plays student’s ability to synthesize, organize and apply the knowledge they have learned. When given tasks that require them to actually use and process what they know, they struggle.  Because they struggle to organize their own thoughts and ideas, they, in desperation, turn to the Internet and take whatever they can find to submit for their assignment.  

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

SLA meets the Faithful

I have been teaching courses in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) off and on for the last six years. One of the activities that I give my students is a group presentation on an aspect of SLA.  I typically ask each group to pick one of the following topics to research and report on:

Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH)
Error Analysis (EA)
Inter-Language (IL)
Grammatical Morphemes and Natural Order
Universal Grammar (UG)
Krashen’s Monitor Model

Since the SLA courses that I teach are typically professional certificate and/or graduate level courses, I usually get thoughtful, well-organized presentations that do an excellent job of presenting material that I am bored of presenting myself. This year, however, I was caught  off guard during the last leg of the Universal Grammar (UG) presentation.

A group of two women and one man were presenting. The two women had spoken and they had done  a good job simplifying what I consider the most technical of the six topics. I figured the last speaker would quickly summarize the key points of the theory and then highlight the major issues that underlie applying UG to SLA before dismounting.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

I felt a bit like Bugs Bunny when he sticks his head out of his tunnel and says, ‘I knew I should’ve taken that left at Albuquerque,’ because suddenly I found myself in Bible class.  My student was using his four minutes to describe how UG proves the existence of the Tower of Babel and therefore how all the stories in the Bible must be true such as Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden.  

I’m actually not sure where he got his information. I did a quick check of the internet and I couldn’t find much; just a few passing remarks. So, I am a little impressed with his creativity, but that really wasn’t the point of the presentation.

Since this was perhaps a ‘once-in-a-life-time’ experience, I, of course, shared this tale with my colleagues. One of my colleagues inquired, “How are you going to mark that?”

Actually I had no problem marking it at all. I gave the student what we refer to as the grade of death; I gave him a C. This grade is the grade of death because it is just high enough so the student won’t withdraw from the course, but it isn’t high enough to assure that he will receive his certificate. Our program requires that the students maintain a B average. When students get a D or lower they typically withdraw and will take the course again. If students get an F in a particular course, they have unlimited F Xing in Korea, or in other words you can fail as much as you want and have it struck from your transcript. This is probably because many Korean students party away their freshman year of university and receive numerous F grades.  

One C will not destroy his average, but I suspect he may have done this in other classes or he will do this in other classes. If he gathers enough of these “kisses of grading death” he will not qualify for his certificate.

For those of you who feel that my C reeks of subjectiveness. Let me assure you that I graded his presentation according to my rubric which is divided into two parts; performance and content. In the performance part of the rubric there are four categories and in the content part of the rubric there are six categories. He actually got an A in in his performance, but a solid D in his content and the rubric is slightly skewed to make content more important than performance; therefore, he recieved a C.

The assignment requires the students to synthesize the information from various sources and create a well organized presentation. I emphasize that I only want my studetns to synthesize the information from the various sources I provide them. For example, I expect them to use their current textbook, How Languages Are Learned, chapter three form an SLA textbook written by Seville-Troika, selected sections from The Study of Second Language Acquisition  by Rod Ellis, and one selected reading for each topic that I put on reserve in the library. I tell them to only use the internet to clarify what they are learning from the sources I have given them. I always tell my studetns to treat skeptically any information that diviates wildly from what they are learning.   

Although I am uncertain where he got his information, it would seem to fit the description of something that ‘divates wildly from the information in the sources that I provided.’ Just ot be sure, I re-read everything I provide about Universal Grammar and in none of the sources I provide is the Tower of Bable mentioned.  

Later in the afternoon I ran into my student in the bathroom. I asked him, “Are you a Christian?” Based on personal experience in restrooms across Korea, this is not necessarily a rude questions to ask when another man is taking a piss. In response to my questions he gushed enthusiastically from both ends and said, “Oh, yes! I want this TESOL certificate so when I do my missionary work in China, I will be able to teach the Bible in English.”

I cannot predict whether or not he’ll receive his TESOL Certificate, but I am certain that he’ll do missionary work in China. How do I know, you ask. Let’s just say, ‘God’s will has been made manifest,’ and that’s how Second Language Acquistion met the faithful.

Questions to self:

How does this figure into Mognolo’s framework on English and Globalization?
What would Phillipson and Pennycook make of this non-native speaker as missionary of English?
Does this fit into Sartre’s conception of Bad Faith?

Monday, October 20th, 2008